August 23rd, 2010

In some churches, lives are changed.  In most, not so much – or at least, not as often.

I choose Door #1.

I met Ed Stetzer about two weeks ago.  My first impression was underwhelming.  When he walked in the dining room at Elmhurst College, he just looked like an ordinary guy with a goatee, kind of overweight, a little pale, shirt untucked.  I don’t know what I thought a well-published, highly respected speaker would look like, but I thought I’d know him when I saw him.

Any misconceptions faded as soon as we talked.  Ed Stetzer radiates personal warmth and attention.  I learned he was not feeling well.  And he’s lost 100 pounds – in process toward physical transformation.

Ed Stetzer is all about transformation.  When I heard him speak at “Answering the Call” (mainlinecall.org) he made a believer out of me that churches can be agents of transformation.

So I read his book.  Transformational Church: Creating a New Scorecard for Congregations (Ed Stetzer and Thom S. Ranier) is based on solid research, beginning with phone interviews of 7,000 pastors from 123 denominations.  Churches chosen for further study were churches that (a) affirm Scripture as their authority, (b) are growing – not only in worship attendance but through new commitments to Christ and changed lives, and (c) have a significant percent of adults serving in ministries or projects beyond the local church.

Stetzer and Rainer want to “change the scorecard” for churches from “budgets, buildings, and bodies” to reflect a “transformational loop” that creates environments for rebirth – individuals and congregations.  A “missionary mentality” is key for transformational churches.  Congregations that change lives know they exist not to maintain the organization but to engage their local culture and change it through both verbal witness to the gospel and active social ministry. 

There’s much more, including some great insights on worship, community, leadership, and, especially, prayer.

It’s nice to read in the book some things we’re already doing well at Corinth – like simplifying church structure and (if you have more than one worship service) bringing the church family together for family celebrations to downplay a consumer mentality in worship.

But the book also exposed much work to be done – especially in the area of building community.  It’s not about being a “friendly” church – it’s about being a church where the soil of deep and spiritual friendship grows transformed lives.

First impressions are not always accurate.  Transformation in process is not necessarily visible or measurable.  But it’s our calling.

One Response to Transformational Church »

  • Chorusboy says:

    “First impressions are not always accurate” I’d say they are rarely accurate if even close ? Glad to know Jesus knows our hearts and has ordained to use us – even in our feeble weak efforts.

    Sing to Jesus !


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